March 19, 2009

Between now and the summer Bankstone news will be profiling some of the locations we’ll be calling at on our monkey-bike-back charity fundraising marathon this year (see previous news stories for details). First up: the Piece Hall, Halifax.

Halifax’s Piece Hall has featured as a location in many films over the years, including Room at the Top (1959), The Dresser (1983), Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986), and 1996’s Brassed Off, a scene from which we will be (very approximately) reproducing on monkey bikes this summer. Props should be no problem as Bankstone boss Dickon Tysoe is handy with a horn himself.

Brassed Off is an elegiac a black comedy written and directed by Mark Herman and starring Ewan MacGregor, Tara Fitzgerald, Stephen Tompkinson and the majestic Pete Postlethwaite. The film ‚ a surprise hit for Channel 4 films along with fellow Yorkshire flick The Full Monty ‚ presents a fictionalised version of the story of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the community around it.

Rechristened Grimley in the film, the place once identified as Britain’s poorest village provides many of the locations for the film. Halifax’s vast Georgian Piece Hall ‚ where weavers once brought their work for sale ‚ provides the setting for the semi-finals of a national brass band competition.

As the cast mime to the real Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s rendition of the Fucik’s Florentiner March (always one to spell with care), shots of the bandstand and Piece Hall colonnades are inter-cut with scenes of the miners collapsing resistance to Heseltine’s programme of pit closures under the Major government, of repossession, redundancy and domestic despair.

Despite some fairly shocking Yorkshire accents, the film was well received by the people whose story it reflects. It offers a poignant evocation of a community accepting its fate with tragic fatalism, its will already sapped by the 1984 miners strike.

It ends by sounding a note of bitter dignity and pride when Pete Postlethwaite’s band leader rejects the competition winner’s trophy at the Albert Hall, insisting that people matter more than music and that the government has systematically destroyed their industry, their communities, their homes, their lives for a few lousy bob.



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